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Profiling and Police Legitimacy: Procedural Justice, Attributions of Motive, and Acceptance of Police Authority

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 42 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2004 Pages: 253-281
Tom R. Tyler; Cheryl J. Wakslak
Date Published
May 2004
29 pages
This study analyzed profiling and police legitimacy with regard to procedural justice, attributions of motive, and acceptance of police authority.
This study reports the results of four papers that investigated racial profiling as an attribution about police motives. Each of the four papers examined first, the types of police behavior that heighten or lessen the occurrence of profiling attributions and second, the consequences of such attributions. During the past several years, racial profiling issues have been central to public discussions of police-community relations. Observational studies of the behavior of legal authorities suggest that these authorities seldom make overt statements that link their behavior to racial profiling. In this study two questions were asked via phone interview, first: what are the consequences when someone makes a profiling attribution to explain police behavior and does the inference, regardless of its validity, affect support for the police? The second question was what factors inference whether profiling had occurred, and what variables are people relying on when they make judgements about police behavior? The studies then extend the analysis of subjective profiling judgments by examining their antecedents. The results support prior studies in finding that judgments about whether the police were profiling were associated with the level of public support for the police. The findings support the procedural justice hypothesis that the fairness with which the police exercise their authority influences whether members of the public view the police behavior as profiling. Further research is needed to help develop training programs that would teach the police the most effective methods of interacting with the public. Tables, figures, references